An Iranian dissident group known for exposing key aspects of Iran’s secret nuclear work claims it now has evidence of "an active and secret parallel nuclear program" operated by Tehran.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), also known as the MEK, said in a report released Tuesday it has found concrete evidence of an "underground top-secret site currently used by the Iranian regime for research and development with advanced centrifuges for uranium enrichment," according to a copy of the findings.
The NCRI, an Iranian opposition group, is known for making big reveals about clandestine nuclear work in Tehran, though its findings have been disputed in the past.
In its latest report, which comes as nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West hit a critical juncture, the NCRI presents evidence of a clandestine nuclear site in Tehran that has continued to perform advanced nuclear research in the enrichment of uranium, the key component in a bomb.
The NCRI claims to have found over a decade-long investigation that the secret military site has been covered up by Tehran under the guise of an Intelligence Ministry center, according to the report.
While the information could not be independently verified, the NCRI claims to have vetted and corroborated the information with multiple sources over many years.
"Despite the Iranian regime’s claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3, in a military base in northeast Tehran suburbs," the report concludes.
The site has operated in secret since at least 2008. Iranian regime scientists have used it to conduct critical research into uranium using highly advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich the substance to levels necessary for a nuclear weapon, according to the findings.
The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) is said to be "directly responsible" for guarding the underground site and preventing it from being detected by Western inspectors.
Part of the key concern among critics of the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran is that the regime has a history of obfuscating its nuclear program. Many of the research sites have not been fully acknowledged by Tehran, leading some to suspect that even under a nuclear deal, Iran could continue to pursue its controversial work in secret.
The NCRI claims the site is located in the suburbs of Tehran, deep underground and only accessible by an elevator leading to an underground tunnel.
"The underground facilities are dual-layered to prevent radiation and sound leaks," according to the report.
The NCRI said the site provides firm proof that while negotiators are working to hammer a deal, Tehran’s nuclear work continues unabated.
"Research and development with advanced centrifuges in highly secret sites are only intended to advance the nuclear weapons project," the report states. "While the regime deceived the world into believing that it had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it had been in fact heavily involved in excavating tunnels and preparing this nuclear site from 2004 to 2008."
The dissident organization is urging the United States to make any further talks contingent on Iran admitting to the site and permitting the entry of inspectors.
"If the United States is serious about preventing the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons, it must make the continuation of the talks predicated on the IAEA’s immediate inspection of the Lavizan-3 site," it states.
The NCRI’s report was released at a critical time in the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran.
Reports emerged earlier this week that the United States is considering allowing Iran to retain the majority of its nuclear infrastructure under a final deal.
The deal is shaping up to be a two-phased agreement, according to the Associated Press. This means Tehran would be subject to restrictions on its work for around a decade before they are lifted.
The NCRI maintains that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith.
"The notion that the mullahs will abandon their nuclear weapons program [through] nuclear talks is a misguided narrative, which is the byproduct of the mullahs’ duplicity and western economic and political expediency," it states in the report.
The White House, State Department, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) received copies of the report several hours before it was made public to reporters.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment by press time.